History over the centuries
There have been settlements within the parish since at least Saxon times. The tithings of Hildeslei (now Hillesley), Cyllingcocotan (now Kilcott) and Treshaa ( nowTresham), were three of the seven lands listed in the Parish Charter for Suth Stoc (now Hawkesbury). These were granted by King Edgar to Pershore Abbey in 972 AD. Both Hildeslei (now Hillesley) and Chilecot (now Kilcott) were listed in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Archaeology has revealed remains of a ringwork (see note below) and possible Saxo-Norman fortified manor at Jubillee Field, Hillesley. There is evidence of 11th and 12th century field systems at Farmcote, Hillesley. Between the 17th and 19th centuries both Hillesley and Tresham became thriving farming communities with a variety of associated crafts and trades. Various corn and fullers mills developed along the Kilcott Valley.
A ringwork is a form of fortified defensive structure usually circular or oval in shape. Defences were usually earthworks in the form of a ditch and bank surrounding the site.
David Chappell’s recollections and photographs of the time are available in a book entitled, Hillesley A Backward Glance. This was published privately in 2007.
Hillesley and Tresham in Modern Times
The 20th century saw the gradual end of agriculture as the dominant employer. As elsewhere, the loss of both men and horses in the Great War led to changes in farming practice and patterns of employment. Horse transport was replaced by the bicycle and motor car. This led to the village becoming less isolated and more attractive to commuters.
Hillesley has largely become a dormitory village. Most of the farms have had to diversify to survive. Most of the cottages have been modernised and extended. Hillesley has gained housing developments at St Giles Barton and Farmcote, but lost its post office, shops and Baptist chapel. The Fleece, one of the two pubs, continues to thrive, as does the primary school. This was first established in 1875. St Giles Church, built in 1851, is now part of the Wickwar Benefice.
Tresham retains four working farms and the church which was built in 1855 but has lost all other amenities.